Watchdog slams Ga. House ethics bill

By Cameron McWhirter/Cmcwhirter@ajc.com

Common Cause Georgia, the nonpartisan group promoting open and honest government, issued a position paper Wednesday blasting ethics legislation proposed by House Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge).

“We had high hopes that a turnover in leadership at the Capitol would result in a new attitude about lobbying and use of campaign funds,” said Bill Bozarth, the group’s executive director. “The general climate is definitely better, but that hasn’t produced strong ethics legislation yet. We’ll be working hard to get Senate support for strengthening the bill when it gets over there.”

Bozarth argued that Ralston’s legislation, which has yet to pass out of the House Rules Committee or the House, would not require members of state boards and authorities to file financial disclosure report or exempt lobbyists from reporting money they spend on travel, meals, and hotels for legislators attending meetings.

The law would require those expenditures be reported by legislators as campaign expenses. Common Cause also opposes a proposed rule that would make anyone filing a frivolous ethics complaint to be liable for a defendant’s legal fees if the case is thrown out.

The proposed legislation, now in Senate Bill 17, is far weaker than ethics legislation first proposed at the beginning of the session. Those proposals included caps on how much lobbyists could spend on legislators and requirements for legislators to report all gifts they receive.

Under current law, lobbyists have no limits on how much they can spend on legislators and legislators do not have to report gifts. Lobbyists, however, are required to report gifts they give to legislators.

42 comments Add your comment

clem

March 31st, 2010
12:10 pm

You can bet the farm that no significant ethics reform will be passed.

GAVince

March 31st, 2010
12:11 pm

House Ethics? Congressional Action? Just sounds like another oxymoron. Asking General Assembly to impose ethical restrictions on themselves is about as likely as asking U.S. Congress to amend Constitution and impose term limits. In both cases, the only answer, DON’T RE-ELECT ANYBODY!!

Mel

March 31st, 2010
12:15 pm

If Common Cause could go into the capitol with two or three times as many members behind it, politicians like Ralston might take more heed. Regardless of your political persuasion, join this outfit.Their action alerts alone make it worth the small price of membership. It’s the more non-partisan issues like this and others that Common Cause watches for citizens that are at the core of all the problems we have in this state and in our country. Join Common Cause and help put some teeth into their efforts and into the rear ends of politicos like Ralston.

kick the crooks out!

March 31st, 2010
12:18 pm

How can anyone in good conscience re-elect any of the low down scoundrels that passed this NOTHING legislation! Our Georgia legislature is owned and controlled by the lobbyists. It is high time to clean up our corrupt Georgia government!

ricardo

March 31st, 2010
12:22 pm

The good ole boys would have it no other way. Keep the meals and gifts and funds coming and I will help you with your bills….quid pro quo. No other way around it. Georgia gets what the lobbyists pay for!

William

March 31st, 2010
12:27 pm

If we had a media that would was not corrupt, there would be reporting of this regardless of who is in office. That may precipitate viable ethics.

Paul

March 31st, 2010
12:30 pm

I know exactly what the cap should be for gifts from lobbyists to legislators. 0. eliminate the practice. they work for us not special interests.

Jethro

March 31st, 2010
12:45 pm

I’ve lived here all my life, but I have no extended family south of Md. My kin are extremely liberal, whereas I venture to the moderate/conservative side of the spectrum. They call us “corrupt hillbilly mafia” that makes Boss Tweed turn over in his grave because he “could never develop the level of corruption in his cronies like you guys have in your politicians.”

Now, I almost have to think they’re right.

bob

March 31st, 2010
12:46 pm

I knew David Ralston was an empty promise scum just by looking at him, and he hasn’t proved me wrong.

Life is gonna be difficult for him, Cagle and the rest of his cronies. We guarantee it. SPLAT!

Jacky Jack

March 31st, 2010
12:47 pm

If you like getting used, abused, screwed , sued, and tattooed then continue voting for these incorrigible incumbents. Republican or democrat. Glenn Richardson. David Ralston. Tom Murphy. It doesn’t matter. They are all slimy and smelly. If there was an honest one up there he would have been heard from by now. Complaining. Loudly. Why take ANYTHING from lobbyist? If it is good legislation vote for it. If it is bad vote against it. We didn’t elect them to go up there and be influenced by free meals, concerts, golf trips, gifts, etc. Speaking of free meals. It looks like someone stuck an airhose up David Ralston’s a$$. They are all disgusting

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Red

March 31st, 2010
1:30 pm

Jethro – yes because north of MD is SOOOOO wonderful with ethics. NYC? Chicago? Boston? I mean up north is just the epitome of morals and ethics. I love how liberals come down here in droves and then criticize everything here acting as if back home was utopia. Did anyone force you to come to “Bubba Land”? Just look at the blue states. All are dropping population like a rock. You guys ruin your states and then come down here. If you don’t like it here or back home was so wonderful don’t let the door hit you….

mission man

March 31st, 2010
1:34 pm

Just look at Obama, Blagovich and Tony Rezko if you want to know about Chicago style ethics.

mrs.white&black

March 31st, 2010
1:44 pm

SO HOW DO WE KEEP THIS CROOKED BILL FROM BEING PASSED????

Mel

March 31st, 2010
1:56 pm

If you don’t focus on fixing the system itself, you’ll just elect different people who will have to beg money from the same corporate bigwigs who will then pull THEIR strings. Break out of this endless “throw the bums out” mode and focus on changing the rules. Progressives and conservatives MUST come together on this.

Glass House Rocker

March 31st, 2010
2:30 pm

Once upon a time, an infamous Georgia Governor said that in order to have better prisons was to have a better class prisoner.
It would seem that the same “logic” would apply to the State Legislature–and the U. S. Congress. Our elected “Representatives” have been entrenched and are not likely to want to change anything.
Why should they? They keep getting re-elected.
That’s our–mine too–fault.The definition of stupidity is to keep doing the same thing expecting a different result.
The way to force our elected officials to be responsible to us is to demonstrate our intolerance for their repeated actions to benefit their financial contributors over the real needs of the electorate.
We may not have the money or the inside track to their offices. We do have the votes to require they be responsive to us or they will not be re-elected.

jc

March 31st, 2010
3:02 pm

crocks making rules to protect themselves what do you expect

mama kin

March 31st, 2010
3:07 pm

Vote out all incumbents – over and over until they realize who they are supposed to represent. No more career politicians – end the country club … let them worry about their jobs like the rest of us.

conservative democrat

March 31st, 2010
3:33 pm

Post the vote on the ethics bill!!!

Audrey in Georgia

March 31st, 2010
3:40 pm

The government you have is the government YOU voted for! Vote for intelligent and
progressive democrats! Vote no republicans in NOvember!!!! Always remember,
republicans voted no for you, stopped working at 2:00pm for you and refuse any cooperation
for the rest of the year, all for you.

Suspicious

March 31st, 2010
3:41 pm

Who didn’t know that???????

Road Scholar

March 31st, 2010
3:44 pm

The legislators get a per diem; why do they also have the right to accept a meal, ticket, whatever from a lobbyist? Ethics language as per Tennessee or Maryland …nothing less.

DAN

March 31st, 2010
3:48 pm

Not Democrat, Not Republican, Not Independent.

It’s called the “PEED OFF PARTY” (or POP).

This party is dedicated to vote every incumbent out of office in the next elections.

If you’re Democrat, vote Democrat. Just don’t vote for the incumbent.

If you’re Republican, vote Republican.. Just don’t vote for the incumbent.

We need to send a message to all politicians, that we’re tired of their BULL MANURE

If the country votes out all the incumbents, the new incoming politicians will get the message..

It’s pretty simple. Nobody needs to change parties and lets face it, there’s plenty of blame to spread around.

A few good politicians will lose their job but they probably have better retirement and insurance then 95% of the American public.

You’ve had to struggle for the last 5 years. Some of you have lost your job and may be working in some other sector just to feed your family.

I guarantee you, none of them will suffer like this country has.

Dick

March 31st, 2010
4:14 pm

Simple ethics bill for use in local, state and federal goverments. Everyone should be able to understand and know if they have broken.
Elected officials, please note if you take any itmes that would convert to monetary value of 50 cents or the amoutn of 50 cents in money, you must resign immediately and agree to never run for an elected office or accept an appointment for either locak, state of federal level of government.
Thank You.
American Tax Payers

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You Asked

March 31st, 2010
4:20 pm

State employees can take exactly $0 in meals, gifts and services because of our work for the government and citizens. Why aren’t legislators held to the same standards they place on the executive branch and it’s employees?

Oh yeah, they write the laws.

This should be a no brainer. Reimburse legitimate expenses connected with legislative duties (postage, travel to the capitol and around your district and staff expenses) and pay for meals at the steak house yourself. The lobbyists can practice selling ideas on their merits not bribes.

Tyler Durden

March 31st, 2010
4:33 pm

Apathy from smart people and willful ignorance from the rest will ensure that the GOP crooks will rule the roost ad infinitum.

Richardson was a crook and blatantly corrupt, yet even when called out, the GOP closed ranks and amazingly defied logic and reason by saying ‘nothing happened; move along, just liberal Democrats making a fuss over nothing.’

Flash forward several years, and the EXACT SAME people are saying ‘trust us to fix ethics and prevent corruption’. I agree with Jethro: even crooked liberal politicians have to be in awe of this display. And who can we blame? Anyone who votes for them or doesn’t vote against them. It’s kinda simple like that…

Billy Jack

March 31st, 2010
4:42 pm

I think it is interesting that all GA legislators are by definition “part time” employees. Under their profiles it has an “occupation” section. Just food for thought. Most state legislators make far less that $20,000 per year. Just some information. Open Georgia is a good site where you can see how much any state employee is making, including legislators. Not leaning one way or the other on this topic, just some information for people to make up their own minds. Have a good day.

Free food in lobby

March 31st, 2010
4:50 pm

I’m now a member of POP-Agree 100%.Also get term limits passed for all state and federal senators and rep’s!!!! Speaker Rolston there is free food in the lobby. Go fill your belly up.

Free food in lobby

March 31st, 2010
4:58 pm

@Billy Jack Yes you can see what they make,but you can not see the under the table bene’s that they get. Why would someone spend thousands to millions to get elected for a small salary? IT’S THE BENE’S and lot of them.Also alot is not being reported.

middler and so tired of all the rhetoric :

March 31st, 2010
4:59 pm

Once again all the politicians scream about morals, except when it applies to themselves. If someone can’t afford to run for office he/she shouldn’t do it. And if the lobbyists’ stroking makes the affluent reps feel better about themselves instead of the reps actions helping their constituents, they need to go to therapy not reward the lobbyists. Why would anyone have a problem reporting any gift, trip, meal, or other lobbyist given perk? If it’s 50 cents or 500 dollars or 5 thousand dollars everything should be reported. If there is nothing wrong going on no one should be afraid of disclosure. Reps are educated people, many lawyers. But while the regular Jane and John Doe know what’s ethical and what’s not, reps need rules and laws and “guidelines.” Why not have 6 year single term limits for all elected positions? No reelections. And someone leaving an elected office must wait 6 years to run for another. And why not ban all reps from taking a job with any organization that could benefit from political actions, until say 6 years after they leave office. Elected office shouldn’t turn into a career with retirement and lifetime healthcare benefits. Elected office shouldn’t be the road to riches for anyone. And Billy Jack (cute blog name), where’s that list of reps who make less than $20K/year? Not just money but all sources of income or support. Not just from tax returns but from bank and investment statements from the last 5 years. We could see who makes what, how they make it, and how much tax they did or didn’t pay.

ATL Guy

March 31st, 2010
5:02 pm

Georgia is solidly a Republican state therefore the will for ethics reform is non-existent. These guys all want to talk about fiscal responsibility and God and guns and yet they are up there with the worst of them all. Hypocrites…that’s what they all are. Every single Republican is a hypocrite. Also, since I’m typing this might as well get it out of the way. Being in the Republican Party doesn’t mean that you’re a racist; but if you’re a racist you’re very likely a Republican. Go figure.

Big Al

March 31st, 2010
5:38 pm

Atlanta, Ga and Washington, D.C. Simply put, one and the same.

C

March 31st, 2010
7:52 pm

Just vote for whoever isn’t an incumbent, show these white trash with money country club goons the hard way

woodie

March 31st, 2010
9:46 pm

What is a government without ethics? This should be a minimum requirement. If you can’t honestly serve the public in office, get out and give an ethical person the job. This waffling demonstrates a lack of integrity.

scihte

April 1st, 2010
7:46 am

We actually thought (for one brief – very brief moment) that the true definition of “ethics” was actually going to be taken more seriously. This set back clearly documents the realities of our General Assembly and where their priorities continue to lie. They have chosen to even ignore major ethics violations at the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia. One faculty colleague said to me, “And you expected anything different? This is Georgia!”

Mylie

April 1st, 2010
9:05 am

The whole place is bought! Big companies send in their lobbyists to buy off every legislator regardless of party. The mere fact that Ralston wasn’t willing to stop lobbyists from spending money on him and the rest of them is proof of what is really going on.

Its me Glynn

April 1st, 2010
11:09 am

we all missed the boat. I should have gotten into Government. But at 17 it bored the crap out of me. What job pays the best and offers benefits out the ass? oh I almost forgot…you can also keep all that you can steal. GOVERNMENT JOBS and they EFING ROCK I wish we all had one.

Terry Taylor

April 1st, 2010
11:32 am

Ralston’s toothless ethics reform proposal assumes voters won’t notice that our lawmakers aren’t addressing ethics issues in the muscular ways Tennessee and Maryland did following their scandals.
Most egregiously absent in Ralston’s proposal is the failure to impose gift limitations on lobbyists. This is not hard stuff, folks. Many of us were outraged by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which opens up corporate and special interest coffers to influence elections. Georgians should be just as outraged with the willingness of Georgia’s leaders to refuse to curtail lobbyist spending on elected officials.
Tennessee and Maryland lobbyists bemoaned the lack of camaraderie with legislators following their states’ tough ethics reform measures. I for one don’t mind if there’s a lot less Glenn Richardson-style camaraderie under the Gold Dome.

Base

April 1st, 2010
11:36 am

The lobbying scam continues! Vote the bums out!

Thomas

April 1st, 2010
4:42 pm

Why has AJC dropped the ball on this, It is not in the headlines…..it’s only corruption….not murder, rape or robbery!

scihte

April 1st, 2010
9:26 pm

In response to “Thomas,” we were told that the AJC has been told to “look the other way” regarding many ethical violations – including many current ones at the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia that have been covered up for years. They will be public knowledge one day, but probably not through the AJC.